Nature has a way of supplying an endless amount of surprises. Many friends have recommended to us a visit to the Wisconsin Dells. Having seen a parade of photos from the area, we were excited to add it to our journeys. Located in the southern half of the state, it lies along the path of the Wisconsin River. While many slot canyons are formed over ages of erosion, the Dells have a shorter period of creation. To get a better understanding of this anomaly, we hopped on the Dells Boat Tour for an up-close look.

We want to thank the Wisconsin Dells CVB for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own. 

The Dells Boat Tour, filled with eager tourists, heads off for another trip .

Heading Out

Dells Boat Tours offers a few options for visitors. Since we only had time in our schedule for one trip, we chose the Upper Dells Tour. The boats offer seating options inside the cabin or on the top deck. With the sun bearing down on this particular afternoon, we opted to remain in the shade. Before long, we headed off on our two-hour tour up the river. The Wisconsin Dells are a 5-mile gorge that was carved into the underlying sandstone. It is estimated that this change occurred about 15,000 years ago.

Traveling on the Dells Boat Tour offers views of some of the unique landscape features found in southern Wisconsin.

Aged Formations

During that time, a portion of North America was covered in a glacial sheet. The glaciers never rested atop the Dells, but the melting ice did create a huge lake nearby. The waters were held back by an ice dam, which allowed the waters to build to a depth of around 150 feet. A sudden failure of this dam resulted in a catastrophic flood. As the water rushed through the area, it cut deep grooves into the sandstone resulting in the slot canyons. As the waters receded, the newly formed landscape came into view.

The Wisconsin Dells is a popular destination for water lovers.

Popular Place

The Upper Dells Boat Tour includes two disembarkation stops. As the pilot guided us toward the first one, we took in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The Wisconsin River is a popular destination for water enthusiasts. An assortment of nooks and crannies is perfect for exploring. Quite often, we would spot boaters who had parked along the shoreline to enjoy the amazing views. We also noticed that the cliffs allow swimmers to jump from many of the ledges into the sparkling depths. This is a great way for water lovers to beat the summer heat.

Riders from the Dells Boat Tour take a break from the water to explore Witches Gulch.

Stop #1 – Witches Gulch

Time flew by and we soon found ourselves pulling into our first stop. After disembarking, we filed along a wooden plankway that led into the hillside. In no time, we found ourselves passing through a series of slot canyons where sunshine struggled to reach the bottom. Each turn opened a new world of wonders. I found myself fascinated by the vegetation growing along the walls, as well as the notably lower temperature of the canyon. The walk leads back to a rest area where we found concessions and restrooms. After a short break, we retraced our steps back to the boat. Stand rock is a familiar landmark that has been known since the Native Indians lived in the region.

Stop #2 – Stand Rock

The boat churned across the river and landed at our second stopping point. This would be one of the most well-known formations in the Wisconsin Dells. Climbing the bank, we found the path that led to Stand rock. This singular outcropping was made famous by photographer H.H. Bennett. He began as a portrait photographer but quickly realized that landscape photos were more lucrative. It was his photos that drew many of the early visitors to the area. His creation of a stop-action shutter allowed him to capture movement for the first time. To prove its effectiveness, he had his son leap the small gap over to Stand Rock. It took a few tries, but he was finally successful. These days, they use a dog to replicate this famous event.

Time to return to the boat and head back to the Wisconsin Dells.

Heading Back

After viewing the leap, it was time to make our way back to the boat. The return ride offered more views of the surrounding landscape. It felt like time whisked by, and soon we were docking back at our starting point. As we disembarked, we left with the memories of the amazing adventure. The sun was growing low in the sky, so our thoughts turned to our evening meal and entertainment. After climbing the stairs back up to street level, we took a moment to look out over the Wisconsin River. We knew that we were in for many more thrills to come.

The authors pause from their Dells Boat Tour for a selfie in a slot canyon.

Dells Boat Tour

Our time in our second Wisconsin city had only just begun, but we were already impressed with the area. Being a family vacation destination, many visitors come here for the waterparks. We intended to show how travelers can have an awesome time without getting wet. Our first excursion was a complete success and we were looking forward to what the next couple of days would bring. Having this opportunity to see Wisconsin’s slot canyons up close was the perfect way to begin our visit. Time to see what else we could uncover. Have you ever visited the Wisconsin Dells?

the authors signatures.

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